The Examining Life

Episode 10: Aquinas' The Office of the Wise Man

Welcome to "The Examining Life," a podcast of the Arts of Liberty Project. Hosted by Drs. Jeffrey Lehman and Andrew Seeley, the podcast covers both works from the Western tradition and contemporary events of interest. Lively, personal, and timely, "The Examining Life" contributes to the renewal of liberal education.

What does it mean to be wise? Why don't we talk about wisdom any more? In this episode, Dr. John Boyle of the University of St. Thomas joins Dr. Andrew Seeley to discuss Aquinas' The Office of the Wise Man from the beginning of the Summa Contra Gentiles. They also consider St. Thomas More as an example of the wise man.

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Podcast Colloquy Excerpt

Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, beginning of Chapter 1:

“My mouth shall meditate truth, and my lips shall hate impiety” (Proverbs 8:7).

The usage of the multitude, which according to the Philosopher is to be followed in giving names to things, has commonly held that they are to be called wise who order things rightly and govern them well. Hence, among other things that men have conceived about the wise man, the Philosopher includes the notion that “it belongs to the wise man to order.” Now, the rule of government and order for all things directed to an end must be taken from the end. For, since the end of each thing is its good, a thing is then best disposed when it is fittingly ordered to its end. And so we see among the arts that one functions as the governor and the ruler of another because it controls its end. Thus, the art of medicine rules and orders the art of the chemist because health, with which medicine is concerned, is the end of all the medications prepared by the art of the chemist. A similar situation obtains in the art of ship navigation in relation to shipbuilding, and in the military art with respect to the equestrian art and the equipment of war. The arts that rule other arts are called architectonic, as being the ruling arts. That is why the artisans devoted to these arts, who are called master artisans, appropriate to themselves the name of wise men. 

But, since these artisans are concerned, in each case, with the ends of certain particular things, they do not reach to the universal end of all things. They are therefore said to be wise with respect to this or that thing; in which sense it is said that “as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation” (1 Cor. 3:10). The name of the absolutely wise man, however, is reserved for him whose consideration is directed to the end of the universe, which is also the origin of the universe. That is why, according to the Philosopher, it belongs to the wise man to consider the highest causes.

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Dr. John Boyle

Our guest for this episode is Dr. John Boyle, professor of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. Learn more about Dr. Boyle here.

Full Text of Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles

The Latin source for this free online Summa Contra Gentiles is the 1961 Marietti edition, based on earlier Leonine editions. The English text is Fr. Laurence Shapcote. Both texts have been edited and revised by the Aquinas Institute. The Aquinas Institute provides several works of Aquinas for free online in Latin and English.

The Center for Thomas More Studies

Learn more about Thomas More from the Center for Thomas More Studies. The Center exists to promote the study of Thomas More, especially his understanding of liberty, statesmanship, and the need for educated and virtuous citizens.

The Essential Works of Thomas More

Yale University Press publishes The Essential Works of Thomas More, edited by Gerar B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith. It presents More’s major works chronologically in one volume with introductions and outlines.

Thomas More’s Letter to Antonio Bonvisi, 1535

Thomas More wrote many letters in the last months of his life. At a pithy page and a half, this letter to his best friend is well worth the minutes you can spend reading it.